Art exhibitions administrator

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Gail Fanshaw spends her day amongst beautiful paintings and objects at the New Ashgate Gallery in Surrey. During the day, she could be advising customers, promoting a new exhibition, putting work on display or helping keep paperwork in order.

What sort of work does your gallery show?

Paintings, prints, jewellery, ceramics, textiles and books by artists from all over the country.We also support and encourage local artists.We have a permanent craft shop and put on 12 special exhibitions a year. The jewellery gallery also has four three-month exhibitions every year.

What are your main tasks?

I do a whole range of different jobs. There is lots of administration, such as writing letters to artists, keeping a record of stock that comes in or is sold, getting publicity for the artists and exhibitions, and helping customers. If I sell something, I need to make out sales slips and receipts and enter the details on our computer system. I have to pack the object up very carefully too.

I also help customers who want to commission an artwork – making sure there is an agreed schedule and price.

How do you organise an exhibition?

I send out letters to artists inviting them to take part and giving them details about the gallery. Closer to the time of the exhibition, I may have to chase them for illustrations – which will appear in the press or be used in a catalogue or brochure. When things start to arrive, they need to be carefully unpacked and checked. I have to code them to match our records and make sure they are priced properly. Then, we send out invitations to people on our mailing list.

What happens during the exhibition itself?

Two days before, we work very hard to set up the exhibition. A lot of thought has to go into the best ways of showing the work to create flow and continuity. I hang paintings on the walls and position craft objects on pedestals and shelves. On the first evening, we hold a private view for invited guests. I'll welcome them, talk to them about the artists and the exhibition and make sales.

What hours do you work?

The gallery opens from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and shorter hours on Sunday.We operate a rota system which means I do not always work the same days each week. At the moment, I am working for 10 days in a row and will then get four days off.We have to be flexible. If we are hanging an exhibition, I may have to stay late into the evening to get it finished.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The contact with artists and customers. I meet some fascinating people. I also get a buzz from selling something – as long as I know it is going to a good home. The downside is the administration, but that side of the work is necessary too.

What skills do you need?

You need to be good with people, have patience and be diplomatic. You might not always like what your customer likes! You also need to be well-organised, able to work on your own initiative and be flexible.

Who do you work with?

There are three full-time staff, a part-time bookkeeper and a jeweller who has a workshop here.We work as a close team – and it is important to ask for help when you need it and to offer it when someone else is struggling.

Gail's route to working as an Art exhibitions administrator

  • Foundation course in art and design.
  • Degree in tapestry.
  • Started work at the gallery.

Gail's tips

  • Approach galleries and offer to work for them on a voluntary basis.
  • Do not worry if you have never hung an exhibition before. You will get lots of help and advice.

Art exhibitions administrator related jobs

  • Artist: fine
  • Museum/art gallery curator
  • Museum attendant
  • Sales assistant
  • Sales manager

Salary of an Art exhibitions administrator

  • Salaries will start between £10,000 and £16,000, depending on the type of gallery.
  • With experience, you might earn up to £25,000.
  • The salary package might include commission on sales.
  • The hourly rate for part-time work starts from around £5.

Becoming an Art exhibitions administrator

  • Many people who work in art galleries have an art qualification – often a degree in either an arts subject or in business studies.
  • It is possible to start without formal qualifications, providing you can show you are happy dealing with people and have a real interest in art.
  • Voluntary work or work experience in a gallery, or museum, or helping organise an arts event can be very useful.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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